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Article by Marie Cargill:
RAMPAGING RAGWEED
(Based on an idea in an article in National Wildlife Magazine)

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Among the specialists at the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Maryland who have been studying why respiratory allergies seem to be growing worse in the United States, a theory is developing around the chief suspect: carbon dioxide (CO 2).The gas is flooding the atmosphere from factories, motor vehicle tailpipes, and other sources, trapping sunlight and fueling global warming. It is essential for photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy and research of the atmospheric gas shows it as a likely factor in enhancing the growth rate of plants and their toxicity.

Plants such as poison ivy have been cultivated in chambers that matched atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in 1950 which were about 300 parts per million; levels today, about 400 parts per million; and levels that climatologists anticipate at the century’s end, about 600 parts per million. Plants growing under today’s condition doubled in size compared to 1950 plants; those that would be growing at 600 parts per million would triple in size. But it doesn’t end with size. Plants such as poison ivy growing in enhanced carbon dioxide levels produced more potent urushiol, the chemical that causes a rash in 80% of people who come in contact with the plant.

Research also shows that rising carbon dioxide levels are increasing local temperatures and extending the growing season for ragweed, the plant responsible for 90% of the pollen-related allergies.

What the research actually did was to compare city ragweed with country ragweed. The city was used as a sort of surrogate for global warming. City areas absorb and trap more heat than do rural areas and bear higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air. Results showed that city ragweed grew faster, flowered earlier, and pumped out more pollen than rural ragweed.

The researchers also investigated whether ragweed was responding to climate change on a continental scale. When you look at how the globe is warming, it’s not warming the same everywhere. It’s warming more at the poles than at the Equator. The research team chose 10 North American locations along a north-south axis from Texas to Saskatchewan. Data on local ragweed pollen counts going back to 1995 clearly revealed extensions of the ragweed season with greater increases occurring the farther north the research looked. The lower localities showed a one-day increase in its ragweed season across a 15-year period. Further north, the ragweed season expanded to 13 days. (For example, ragweed in Fargo, North Dakota, now blooms and sheds pollen 16 days longer than it used to do.) The northernmost spots in Canada now have a ragweed season a month longer than in past years. All this new information suggests that life on this warming plant will cause more misery for people who suffer from hay fever.

There is a solution: any one of the alternative medicines such as acupuncture, homeopathy, and herbal medicine, or a combination of them, can be effective. While unable to prevent global warming or rising levels of carbon dioxide, alternative medicine does desensitize individuals to allergens, resets the immune system, and dramatically reduces the typical effects of exposure.

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